Proposed Leisure and Entertainment District denied in Brookhaven

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

A proposed Leisure and Entertainment District will not be introduced into Brookhaven, at least for now.

With only three votes in support, the Board of Aldermen voted at its recent meeting not to allow the creation of such a district.

If created, the LED would have been an area in the central business district of downtown. It would have allowed customers who purchased some alcoholic beverages to take them from one establishment to another within that district.

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“It’s not in an open container,” Mayor Joe Cox explained. “You could walk from one establishment to another with the beverage in an appropriate cup. It is not for consumption at parades or other downtown events.”

The ordinance would affect only eating establishments that chose to participate, attorney Bobby Moak said, and would be limited to that mapped-out district.

“The Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) must also approve it before it would go into effect,” said Moak.

Each municipality in Mississippi determines its own open container laws, Moak said. So Brookhaven’s elected leaders could decide how permissive they wanted to be. Regulations would also have to be specified. Liquor cannot be brought into the district; the only approved containers would be cups with the establishment’s name printed on them; and customers could only buy from and carry into permitted places.

“There is a $250 fine per occurrence” of breaking the ordinance, Moak said, if it were to be approved.

“Most events are family-oriented downtown, correct?” Ward 1 Alderman James Magee Jr. said. “Do we really want to add alcohol to the Christmas parade? That’s my concern.”

Certain days of the week or events can be excluded at the board’s discretion, Moak said, but still require approval of ABC.

Voting in support of the district were Jeff Henning, Ward 4; Shannon Moore, Ward 2; and Don Underwood, alderman-at-large. Voting against allowing the district were Andre’ Spiller, Ward 6; Fletcher Grice, Ward 5; Rev. Charles Caston Sr., Ward 3; and James Magee Jr., Ward 1.

“I have a problem with the ordinance because I think it’s a slippery slope,” Grice said of why he voted “no.” “I mean, it’s available on the premises; just drink it inside. That’s my opinion.”

Spiller said he voted “no” for a different reason.

“If we do this, we need to find a grant to get a community center for these kids. We’re doing everything we can for adults. What have we done for these kids?” he said. “We’re going into our third year (on the board), and we have done nothing for these kids. From here on out, I’m voting ‘no’ on everything until we do something for these kids.”